The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is trying to find whoever shot a bald eagle found Monday in Chatham County.
A state trooper found the dead bird in a ditch before 8 a.m. Monday on Siler City-Glendon Road, said Claude Smith, a Wildlife Resources Commission officer.
The trooper called the wildlife office, and Smith took the bird to the N.C. Zoo, where a veterinarian X-rayed it and confirmed the bird had been shot in the head. The wound appeared to have been caused by a single, small-caliber projectile, Smith said. The bird appeared to be otherwise healthy, he said.
“An eagle or something like that, it’s pretty rare that we run across somebody killing one of them,” Smith said. “A head shot like that is a pretty precise shot. It’d be kind of hard to believe that it was an accident.”
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While bald eagles had been on the endangered species list since the 1970s, populations have since recovered. North Carolina has seen its bald eagle population rebound from nearly nothing to at least 500 birds last year, including juvenile eagles, wildlife officials have said.
Bald eagles remain protected under multiple federal laws that make it illegal to kill or possess any part of the bird. Criminal convictions can result in fines of up to $250,000 and/or up to two years in federal prison. The state also can file charges against those who kill bald eagles.
“We really don’t have any information as to who knows anything about it, and that’s why we hope that the media would maybe get the word out there and maybe somebody would contact us with some information,” Smith said.
Anyone with information is asked to call Smith at 919-239-9897 or post a tip to ncwildlife.org/wildtip. The Wildlife Resources Commission offers a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest or conviction, Smith said.